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Hurricane Irene: Home Front Battle 
Feature News Story 
379th Engineer Company (Horizontal) 
LITTLETON, Mass.-- Members of the 379th Engineer Company (Horizontal), Massachusetts Army National Guard, reposition a pallet of sand bags in order to sustain production of more sandbags August 27 at the Massachusetts Highway Department facility here. Soldiers and Airmen of the Massachusetts National Guard were activated in preparation of the approach of Hurricane Irene.  (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerome Bishop, 65th Public Affairs Operations Center)
By Army Pfc. Alexa L. Discepolo, 65th Public Affairs Operations Center 

WEST NEWTON, Mass
.  -- When the governor activates members of the Massachusetts National Guard it not only affects them, it affects their families and puts their lives on hold. National Guard members leave their families while battling tornadoes, flooding, and other environmental disasters; leaving their wives, husbands, or parents on their own.

This can create a heavy burden on the loved ones of Soldiers and Airmen, who are often left bearing additional responsibilities, like securing the house and family while weathering the storm alone.

Hurricane Irene is no exception. Nearly 2,500 Soldiers and Airmen have been activated as their families prepare for up to 100mph winds and heavy rainfall. In these situations, military families take on the challenge of running their homes by themselves during undesirable weather.

“It’s tough because we scramble to get in here as quick as we can and while everyone else is home with their families during the storm we have to be here, so it’s definitely trying on families to fill roles without loved ones on hand,” said Capt. Russell O’Neal, a Medfield, Mass. native, who works in the operations and training section of the 101st Engineer Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

While Soldiers and Airmen are activated, family members assume a huge, sometimes singular role in their homes.

When this happens, other family members show great organizational skills, and the ability to handle being both a mother and a father to children, even when their hands are filled, said Col. Paul Landry, a Sudbury native who serves as commander of the 79th Troop Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

“The Soldiers and Airmen impress me, the family members impress me even more because they’re able to run the home, while we do what we do,” said Landry.

The most recent time Landry was activated, his wife went above and beyond to ensure the family’s comfort level while he would be gone. 

“The minute I let my wife and my kids know that daddy’s going to be gone for a couple of days the first thing my wife did was called my parents saying ‘Paul’s going away.’ [She] called her sisters and they said while you’re gone, were going to come over and we’ll have a sleepover for the kids tonight and we’ll watch movies,” said Landry.

Having confidence in the strong family members they have left behind can bring reassurance to Soldiers and Airmen activated for state duty.

Although being a military spouse is a hard job, it gives the Soldiers and Airmen security and a peace of mind knowing that their spouses can handle issues at home, making it easier to do their job, said Landry. 

8/30/2011